road.cc skimmed across the Solent to the Isle of Wight to do a quick cheeky preview ride of the Wight Riviera Sportive that will be rolling out on Sunday 20th May. The Wight Riviera will be the first ever sportive to use a new Avant format where the opening miles are on closed roads before riders are let loose for a longer day in the saddle.
The preview ride was to see what riders could expect from the island and to recce that Avant section with the Southern Sportive team who devised the concept, a 25km loop that starts and finishes in Yarmouth riding anti-clockwise around the western tip of the island.
Starting from the middle of Yarmouth the event village is handily just 30 seconds pedal from the ferry and on the day there will be a mass start controlled lead out from the harbour front leading into the 25km closed road Avant loop, where it’s probably safe to make the mistake of thinking that because you’ve just been on a ferry you think you’re abroad and set off on the wrong side of the road. The ride starts with a gentle ascent out of the town and pretty soon you’re freed onto the quiet Isle of Wight countryside with a sharp left-hand hairpin turning you onto the back roads. A fast and undulating run takes you to Freshwater Bay where the climb back out up onto Compton Down is the first real test of the day, and probably a bit too close to breakfast for some, but a look over your right shoulder to the white cliffs and The Needles should take your mind off it for a bit.
Roll over the top and swoosh down the Military Road before turning north back onto the smaller roads again to complete the Avant back to Yarmouth. For an opening loop of only 25kms it certainly packs a lot of variety in and it’s not a lightweight tootle round the lanes. Once back in Yarmouth riders will head out again, onto the open roads of the island this time, roads which could never be described as ‘busy’ though, for the rest of the sportive with the whole of the Isle at their disposal. The Wight Riviera makes the most of the web of quiet country lanes that scribble their way around the island, but don’t be fooled into thinking that because it’s in the south it’s flat; a permanently undulating downland profile gives the legs a relentless but picturesque challenge through postcard English countryside with twee villages and a rolling frieze of sea views.
There are three routes to choose from on the Wight Riviera Sportive, the full route of 154km with 2219m of climbing, a mid route of 110km and 1650m of height gain and a short 65km with 914m of hills to climb, all routes start with the 25km closed road Avant loop. The lesser mileage costs £36 whilst the longer two cost £38 apiece with which you get full and comprehensive route marking plus route maps & GPS to back that up, feed and support stations, an event village with stalls and entertainment, a free event t-shirt and electronic rider timing. And to sweeten the deal even further both ferry operators to the island are offering discounts on crossings for Wight Riviera Sportive riders.
But that’s not all as the Sportive is just part of a whole weekend of cycling fun. The Wight Riviera Ride takes in just the Avant 25km closed road section of the sportive, so if you want a scenic, traffic free ride to take the kids, the family, friends or just a beginner on then that could be perfect, especially with the promise of an ice-cream at the end as a reward, or a pint, or some chips, and it’s a great way to make a weekend of it with a fitter partner doing one of the longer sportive rides. If you’re into a bit of off-road, and who isn’t, then there’s the Big Wight Enduro to consider. With 90km, 80km, 40km or 25km rides, all fully marked with free Torq energy drinks, manned support and feed stations and transponder timing an excellent way to explore the extensive network of trails on the island. For the more sedate, or littler legged there’s the Beach to Beach Family Ride on 19th May, completely free to enter it’s a fun ride along the picturesque causeway path from Yarmouth to Freshwater Bay and back, just 5km each way it’s flat and follows a leafy cycle path for most of the route, ride to the beach, grab a coffee or a 99 and watch the waves, then ride back for more ice-creams. With the embarrassment of riches the Isle of Wight has for visitors; model villages, garlic farms, castles, dinosaurs, coloured sand, owls and monkeys, mix all of that with some cycling in the middle somewhere and you’ve got yourself a great weekend away right there.
Jo Burt has spent the majority of his life riding bikes, drawing bikes and writing about bikes. When he's not scribbling pictures for the whole gamut of cycling media he writes words about them for road.cc and when he's not doing either of those he's pedaling. Then in whatever spare minutes there are in between he's agonizing over getting his socks, cycling cap and bar-tape to coordinate just so. And is quietly disappointed that yours don't He rides and races road bikes a bit, cyclo-cross bikes a lot and mountainbikes a fair bit too. Would rather be up a mountain.